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Lifestyle




Senator Brown sets the table for foodies and farmers
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown's wants his Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act to be part of the farm bill now working its way through Congress
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Sherrod Brown met Quick Bites for the interview in a studio graciously provided by WKSU's colleagues at WKYC-TV in Cleveland
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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In The Region:

It’s almost a revolution.

The local foods movement in Northeast Ohio is drawing national attention including a recent write-up in the New York Times.

Feeding the frenzy for fresh, seasonal produce that’s grown right here are foodies, farmers, chefs… And a U.S. Senator from Ohio who grew up baling hay.

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U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown grew up near Mansfield milking cows and baling hay. Today, he is the first Ohioan on the Senate Agriculture Committee in four decades.

This summer he’s working to amend the farm bill working its way through Congress to include help for small farmers as well as consumers who want locally-produced food. It would encourage urban agriculture, make it easy to use food stamps at farmers markets, provide aid to organic farms, and help schools buy food from local farmers.

Brown is also pushing a new approach to farm-risk management: Replacing fixed-price direct support with payments to farmers only when the market fails and only for crops actually planted.  

Intended to expand markets for farmers and access for consumers
Brown introduced the main provisions of his  Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act 2013 last year. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but the House never brought it up.

He says he reintroduced it because “the farm bill is more than a food bill, it’s a hunger bill, an energy bill, a conservation bill, and a rural development bill.”

He says the local foods movement in Northeast Ohio has inspired his ideas.

“Cleveland is No. 1 or 2 in the country in urban agriculture. Lots of local restaurants use foods grown locally. That puts money in people’s pockets and the farmers’ pockets, and I want to help Ohio to continue to lead the way.”

Believes the food system still needs fixing
Brown says the nation’s food system isn’t working for low-income people or for children. 

“The cheapest way to get calories is to buy processed foods, and there are food scientists working overtime to make sure these processed foods with high sugar, fat, and salt content taste really good.”

He says food deserts exist not only in cities but also in rural areas without grocery stores. But he points to a 150 percent increase in farmers markets since 2000.

Agriculture is the Buckeye State’s leading industry with one out of seven Ohioans farming.

Billed as a jobs bill
Brown says if Northeast Ohioans spent just 25 percent of their annual food dollars on local foods, it would produce 27,500 new jobs.  

He says his bill would cost a few hundred million dollars a year, "but the savings on eliminating direct payments to big, mostly corporate farmers would save more than $2 billion a year.”

Brown believes his proposals will succeed this time "because farmers all over the country were not happy at all that the House of Representatives failed to do what both parties and both houses have done for decades and that is to pass a relatively good farm bill.” 

Summary of The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, provided by Sen. Sherrod Brown:

The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act will support job creation by improving federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. This legislation will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. Of utmost importance, this legislation will provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.

The Benefits of Local and Regional Food Systems
Local and regional agriculture is a major economic driver in the farm economy. While in 1970 farmers markets were few and far between, there are now almost 8,000 farmers markets throughout the United States. On the heels of that expansion, we are witnessing the rapid growth of local food markets that have scaled up beyond direct marketing and a renewal of mid-tier regional food system enterprises. According to USDA, local food sales now account for $5 billion annually. Together these markets represent important new job growth and economic development opportunities.

The Local Farm, Food, and Jobs Act will:

Expand Access to Healthy Foods for Consumers by:
*  Improving SNAP participant access to farmers markets, CSAs, and other direct marketing outlets by creating a level playing field for electronic benefit transfer among vendors.

*  Piloting the use of mobile technologies to redeem SNAP benefits at local food markets.

*  Allowing SNAP benefits to be redeemed at CSAs.

*  Providing $20 million in annual funding for SNAP incentive programs, which will increase the consumption of local fresh fruits and vegetables by families using nutrition assistance.

*  Allowing small school districts the option of using their school lunch commodity dollars for the purchase of local and regional foods, and directing USDA to conduct farm-to-school demonstration projects.

*  Increasing funding for the Community Food Projects program from $5 million to $10 million annually and increasing the maximum grant term from three years to five years.

*  Funding the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program at $25 million annually.

*  Providing $5 million a year for a Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program to advance children’s nutritional health and education in rural and urban underserved communities by increasing the number of national service members working in K-12 schools

Boost Income and Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers by:
*  Ensuring that lenders associated with the Farm Service Agency and Farm Credit System have systems in place to serve local farmers.

*  Directing the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to develop a “whole farm diversified risk management insurance plan” to serve diversified producers who do not currently have access to revenue insurance geared to their farming systems.

*  Directing RMA to offer organic crop price election for all organic crops within three years.

*  Providing RMA with renewed authority to develop products for underserved crops.

*  Consolidating and providing stable funding for the organic cost share certification program for farmers and handlers at $11.5 million per year.

*  Funding Value-Added Producer Grants at an annual amount of $20 million a year and expanding the program to include food aggregation and distribution networks and targeted outreach to underserved states and communities.

Improve Local and Regional Food System Infrastructure and Markets by:
*  Providing authority for local and regional food system projects under Regional Business Opportunity Grants, Community Facility Grants and Loans, and Rural Business Enterprise Grants programs.

*  Making improvements to Business and Industry direct and guaranteed loans to benefit producers of local or regionally produced agricultural food products.

*  Expanding the Farmers Market Promotion Program to include the full gamut of local food marketing as the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program and funding the revised program at $20 million annually.

*  Directing Specialty Crop Block Grants to be used to improve farm profitability and sustainability, improve distribution of local and regional food, and increase the domestic consumption and affordability of fruits and vegetables in low-income communities.

*  Providing food safety and inspection outreach, technical assistance, and training to small meat and poultry establishments.

*  Providing customer-friendly electronic access to meat labels.

Enhance Agriculture Research and Extension by:
* Including a national program within the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative program for local and regional farm and food systems research and for conventional plant and animal breeding research.

*  Establishing a local and regional farm and food system enterprise facilitation initiative to increase training and technical assistance for local food systems through Extension.

*  Providing $5 million in funding for USDA to collect local food production data and evaluate federal programs designed to support local food systems.


(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Sinister Brown sets the table, and we eat the crumbs. This the twilight zone - Josh Mandel, a conservative with morals gets less votes than Brown, a progressive wealth stealer/liar that wants to remake America into a "sustainable"/dictatorship/Agenda 21. Common core is now in Ohio, and most states; ask your children's' teachers what the questions on this test evaluate. The core issues are progressive/feel good/what do you think for the most part; knowledge is secondary - children are treated like animals/they learn through route memorization. Many ohioians are against common core. Utah against common core website helps explain Agenda 21, and why any progressive idea should be viewed with much apprehension. Progressives are in both parties, and as destructive as terminal cancer.
Latta is involved with Agriculture, and gives a much more rational viewpoint than Brown.


Posted by: green's gone on August 6, 2013 4:08AM
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